A Beginner’s Guide to Tank Items
In our second installment of the LoL Items series by PicklePants, we will discuss every recommended League of Legends item you can buy as a tank champion. Whether you’re a tank in the top lane, a tank in the jungle, or playing as a tank anywhere else, you’ll need to know what tank items you can get to provide you with the protection to be the frontline monster your team needs.
With Season 9 underway, many new players are hitting Summoners Rift with one goal in mind- getting better and ultimately winning. At first, you will not understand how many champions work or what class many of them fit in to. One dominant class that is frequently seen is the tank role. Champions in this class usually build defensive items to protect themselves as well as their team.
We will not be covering tank Support items in this article because we’ve already done that in our previous guide which can be found here. We also have guides for AP items and assassin items. In our first article, we provided the terminology and a bit of background information to help you understand how itemization works. If you haven’t read that already, I would recommend you do so. But here’s a TLDR for those who haven’t.
Every item in a build falls into one of two categories:
Core items are almost always brought on a champion.
Situational items are items that you may not necessarily purchase every game apart from when you specifically need them.
Pre Game Builds
If you found this guide while researching how to build your tank champ, you’re in luck. Our free Pre Game tool gives you a build curated by our high-ELO experts right before your match begins.
If you’d like to try the Pre Game, just click here to sign up for an account! Builds are just the tip of the iceberg for everything that our platform can do, so make sure to explore! Without further adieu, here’s the breakdown for tank items.
Starting Items for Tanks
There are usually two starting items available for tank champions in League of Legends. Some specific champions may favor other starting items like Doran’s Blade or Doran’s Ring (keep an eye out in our other item guides for when you’d want to build those). For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be focusing on the items that most tanks would likely take.
The first starting tank item is Doran’s Shield. This item provides the user with health and health regeneration. It also gives the user a small increase of damage to minions which allows you to last hit them more efficiently.
For many tanks, this is their bread and butter and their core starting item. They will usually take this in most of their matchups because it provides them with sustain and gives them a slight increase in laning consistency. When they’re against fighters or champions who outrange them, this is a must in order to make the best of laning phase.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Malphite, Maokai, Nasus.
The second potential starting item is Corrupting Potion. This item is a refillable consumable that allows the user to regenerate health and mana throughout the game. Each Corrupting Potion stack can be consumed during the laning phase as well as in the later stages to give you more sustain in difficult circumstances.Corrupting Potion can hold up to 3 charges, allowing it to be consumed 3 times before needing to be refilled by heading back to base. While this item doesn’t do much more than provide you with sustain, it does have a small passive, Touch of Corruption, that gives you a slight increase in magic damage when trading and consuming at the same time.
This item is usually taken when you’re playing against a champion who has lots of sustain, or if you are a tank champion that uses their abilities frequently.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Sion, Maokai, Ornn.
Advanced items, also known as upgraded, or tier 2 items, are items that have only been upgraded once. They consist of one or more basic items to be created, and they will be what you’re sitting on when you have no finished items.
It’s very difficult to talk about every advanced item that is available to the tank role because there are so many variations. You will need to look at the next item and from there, you can check to see what advanced items are needed to complete said item. Take a look at the stats that it provides and choose the advanced item you want.
Example Situation: Maokai vs Teemo:
Maokai can choose to build Abyssal Mask first when he is laning against Teemo as it provides him with a lot of magic resist and health to protect himself. There are two advanced items that build into Abyssal Mask: Negatron Cloak and Catalyst of Aeons.
Each advanced item is pretty good on Maokai, but I’d go for Catalyst of Aeons first if I can afford it. This is because it gives health and mana, while also providing you with some sustain and it’s what you’ll need to defend yourself against a Teemo during the laning phase. So keep in mind that you not only need to think about what items to build, but also the order in which to build that item’s components.
Complete (finished) Items
Completed items are items that can no longer be upgraded. They provide you with all the necessary protection you will need to protect yourself. Most items give 2 of the 3 protection stats needed to protect you (armor, magic resist, and health). This is where buying different items to protect you against certain enemy damage will come in handy.
Abyssal Mask is a great item if you use your abilities often. Basically, whenever you cast one of your abilities, you will restore some health equal to 20% of the mana that was used. This means if you have low cooldown abilities, you’ll get a good amount of health regen. When you take damage from an opponent, you’ll also regain mana based on the damage you received.
In addition, it also gives bonus health, magic resist, mana, and cooldown reduction which makes it ideal for champions who spam their abilities.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Galio, Singed, Cho’Gath.
Adaptive Helm is an item that is a must-have when you’re against champions who have abilities that deal damage over time. This is because its passive reduces damage taken from a spell with multiple ticks.
For example, it directly counters Rumble’s ultimate, Brand’s passive and Liandry’s Torment. As a tank, you’ll also usually be the first one running into things like Teemo’s mushrooms to clear the way for your team.
Stat-wise, it also gives health, base health regen, cooldown reduction, and magic resist, which will assist you when laning against an AP champion.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Maokai, Sion, Sejuani.
Dead Man’s Plate
Dead Man’s Plate can be confusing for some beginning players, so let’s break down what it does. When moving around the map, you will gain stacks that can accumulate up to 100 which can be consumed by auto attacking the enemy.
No matter how many stacks you have, you’ll deal a slight increase in damage and slow the enemy briefly, but the more stacks you have, the better.
This item gives you armor and health, making it a good choice against AD based champions.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Shen, Malphite, Ornn.
Sunfire Cape is a really good tank item and many tanks build this first. It provides you with armor, health and an incredibly useful passive, Immolate. Immolate is basically a small AOE burn that deals damage to enemies who are close by.
This will help you trade with the enemy as well as clear waves. If you’re a champion that wants to get in the thick of things and wreak havoc or you want to be more of a threat when peeling, it’s a good choice since you’ll be dealing damage to multiple enemy champs.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Maokai, Shen, Poppy.
Gargoyle Stoneplate provides the user with a nice amount of magic resistance and armor, which makes it fantastic in team comps that have mixed damage. It also has a really strong passive that works wonders in team fights. When there are multiple enemies nearby, you will gain additional armor and magic resist.
It also has an incredibly unique active, Metallicize, which basically reduces your outgoing damage in exchange for an increased amount of health. Activating it at the start of a team fight will give you a range of bonus stats which can definitely save your life.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Sion, Maokai, Malphite.
The Frozen Heart is an item that gives armor, cooldown reduction and mana. It is one of the stronger defensive items if your champion relies on their abilities as it gives cooldown reduction as well as mana.
It also reduces the enemies attack speed by 15% which will definitely come in handy if the enemy has multiple AD champions, especially if they rely on attack speed.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Sion, Maokai, Malphite.
Iceborn Gauntlet is a defensive item that provides armor, cooldown reduction and a huge chunk of mana. Iceborn Gauntlet should be purchased on tanks who will be building lots of defensive items and armor because the size of it increased with bonus armor.
Its passive – Spellblade, is an AoE slow that is granted after using an ability. For example, using an ability will grant the passive. When you auto-attack an enemy champion or minion with the passive activated, it will deal bonus damage and create an icy zone around the target that slows them briefly.
This makes it an option for bruisers as well, you’ll even see some ranged champions like Ezreal and Viktor take it, but in general, we’re including it as a tank option since it leans toward being more of a defensive choice.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Nasus, Ornn.
Thormail reflects some of the incoming damage the enemy deals through basic attacks and deals it back to the attacker. For example, a Lucian attacking a tank with this item will deal less damage but also receive damage in return.
Thornmail also slows the attack speed of enemies who attack you which makes it ideal against teams with multiple AD threats.
Examples of champions who benefit: Maokai, Rammus, Dr.Mundo.
Randuin’s Omen is a defensive item that will protect you against auto attacks and AD damage. It provides the user with armor and health, while also reducing the enemies critical strike damage which will help you stay alive against enemies like Yasuo or Caitlyn.
Just like Thornmail, it has a passive that reduces the enemies attack speed when they’re auto attacking. Activating this item will create a brief AOE slow that slows nearby enemies for 2 seconds, making it a logical option for tanks that are looking to engage or peel.
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Jarvan IV, Rammus, Shen.
Righteous Glory is an item that gives you a variety of defensive stats including armor and health. It also provides mana which will allow you to use your abilities more frequently. This item also has a useful active – when activated, you will gain a brief increase in movement speed (and so will your allies around you) when running towards the enemy.
After the duration or once you’ve come into contact with an enemy champion, it will emit a shockwave that slows enemies nearby. This item is good on champions who use their abilities frequently, champions who are rather immobile, as well as champions who want to chase and stick to opponents
Examples of champions who benefit from taking it: Nautilus, Cho’Gath, Rammus.
Spirit Visage is a great item on tank champions who have a lot of healing in their kit. For example, Maokai, Zac and Mundo. This item provides you with health, healing, magic resistance, and cooldown reduction. This makes it a really good item when laning against champions who deal magic damage like Teemo or Lissandra.
Spirit Visage will also increase your self-healing effects, which makes it quite strong in team fights and during the laning phase as it offers you increased sustain.
Examples of champions who benefit: Dr. Mundo, Zac, Sejuani.
Warmog’s Armor is an item that provides the user with a lot of health and sustain. This item is usually brought near the end of the game to get the most out of it as you’ll need 3000 health to unlock its passive, Warmog’s Heart.
Warmog’s Heart rapidly regenerates health when your out of combat for 6 seconds as long as you have over 3000 health. If you’re playing a champion that doesn’t have 3000 health yet or will not go over the threshold of 3000 by buying it, then you should get it later on in the game.
Examples of champions who benefit: Dr. Mundo, Sion, Sejuani.
Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips for itemization as a tank.
- Learn when to adapt.
- Every champion has multiple choices when it comes to which items they should buy. While our build paths and item suggestions are a good basis to go by, make sure you adapt your build path to whatever circumstances and situations you’re faced with. For example, if the enemy has mostly AD champions, prioritize armor over magic resistance.
- Remember to buy Control Wards.
- It’s not just the Supports job to buy Control Wards. Make sure you purchase and place them as the game goes along.
- Take into account who and what is your biggest threat.
- As suggested, you will need to adapt your item build depending on the situation. To decide which item you should get next, take a look at the enemies team. Ask yourself, who is fed? Who has the most damage? And what does the enemy team consist mostly
- Your next item should take into consideration all three of these answers.
- Avoid items that don’t benefit you.
- While this is pretty obvious, avoid buying items that will not have much of an impact on your champion. If your champion doesn’t require mana like Renekton or Dr. Mundo, don’t bother buying items that give you mana. You shouldn’t be buying items like Frozen Heart or Iceborn Gauntlet on either of these champions as they don’t compliment or synergize with your kit. There are far better items available like Sunfire Cape or Gargoyle Stoneplate.
How to find the right build path
If you’re struggling to find an appropriate build path for your champion. You have a few options available to you:
- Trial and error
- Just play the game and try to find an appropriate build path yourself by seeing what works well on your champion.
- Copy the build from the Pre Game
- As we mentioned at the top of the article, in the Pre Game, you can see what we recommend to build on your champion and when. This is useful as you can just launch it automatically before every game and get a build without having to search prior to the game starting.
- Research Summoner Profiles
- If you want to keep track of your own builds in your match history and study the builds of any summoner, our Summoner Profile feature is your go-to tool.
- Try Probuilds.net.
- This is another great option because pro players are really smart and do a lot of mathematical equations and research to work out what fits best and when.
- Try out some of the recommended items.
- Each champion in the game has a dedicated list of items that Riot recommends to build. Give some of them ago and see what tickles your fancy.
Thanks for reading! We hope you enjoyed this tank item guide. As always, you can find Picklepants in our Discord if you have any questions.